by Skip Cohen
I've written a lot over the years about the importance of community involvement. It's one of the very strongest ways for you to build your brand. We're into the Fall and a time of year when opportunities to be more involved in your community abound. There is no other time of year where there are so many activities for non-profits. Here's a chance to build your reputation, and get a little visibility for your efforts.
Remember how you feel as a consumer yourself? People like supporting companies they perceive as giving something back. You're looking for the community to be good to you - well, you have to be good to your community!
While some of the points I've made about marketing and expanding your reach into the community have been said over and over again, so many of you still aren't making the change. Stop procrastinating and start building a stronger brand!
Here's a short list of ideas to get you started:
1) Get involved with a local fund-raiser. Whether it involves your camera or not doesn't matter. You need to be involved, and your community needs to know you're out there and not just another retailer.
2) Look for local events around holiday time. For example, anybody doing portraits of couples at the Kiwanis, Rotary or Exchange Club holiday event this year?
3) Get to know the president of the PTA for any of the local schools. How about portraits instead of a bake sale to raise money this year? The schools are all back in session. There isn't a school in the country that has all the money and support it needs.
4) Every high school football team, band, yearbook and chorus are looking for new ways to raise money - you've got the gear and the know-how - so how about working with them to create a new idea for fund-raising beyond hot dog sales at Friday night games?
5) Visit your local Chamber of Commerce and find out what's going on in the community. For a start, most communities are getting read to start their United Way campaign. For next year, how about using your camera to create new ways to raise funds, and you can plant the seed with United Way now. Also, photograph some of the events and then get the images over to the Chamber of Commerce.
6) Sometimes it's not about raising money directly at all, but using your skill set as a photojournalist, documenting various events in the community and then providing the management of those events and the local paper with your images. Photograph charity walks, holiday parties and events that are public for the community. Remember, nobody can do it better than you!
7) Use your blog! Your blog is the perfect vehicle to remind your readers of special community events coming up. It puts you in a great position, helping the hosting organization publicize the event. It also gives you some great content. One event has the potential to give you three strong hits of content/exposure. First, there's letting your readers know it's coming up and linking them to the event page. Second, be at the event to photograph the participants, key people and the activities, giving everyone a chance to actually meet you. Third, follow up with a blog post after the event, which not only helps the organization but demonstrates a little of your skill set.
The big issue is about involvement and helping people remember who you are and what makes you different from so many other companies. I remember Tony Corbell once talking about things he did when first starting his business:
"I wasn't the best photographer in town, but I was determined to be the nicest! It was the best way I could separate myself from everybody else and build my business!"
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